In astronomy, they call the body orbited by a smaller satellite the Primary.
That’s me. I’m the Primary.
For years now, I have been a fixed point in the universe about which my family orbits. I stay and they go. They are the International Space Station and I am Earth. They are stars and moons and clouds and travelers with carry-on luggage for quick movement.
I am the home base, the number you call in case of emergency.
I am an anchor snagged on the ocean floor.
I will hold your place, hold your purse, hold your hand. “Hold on, I’ll be right back,” you’ll hear me say.
I am steady and planted in cement and locked with all the padlocks on sale at every Home Depot in America. If someone wanders away to explore, he or she can follow the trail of breadcrumbs and find me here. Still sitting, still waiting.
They start calling my name from other rooms in the house as soon as they need me. “Mom! Mom! Mom!’ If I answer when they start calling, our shouts turn into a weird game of Marco Polo. They adjust as they shout, heading for me. “Mom!’ “What?” “Mom!’ “What?” “Mom!” until I am so annoyed that I yell, “STOP MOMMING ME!” But they follow the sound of my voice anyway, a homing beacon that never fails.
I plan itineraries, buy plane tickets, wrestle the luggage from the garage to the house. I wash their laundry, pack their clothes, collect miniature toiletries in a quart sized Zip-loc™ bag. I check them in online and print their boarding passes. I drop them off at the airport and I pick them up and I ask, “How was your trip?” and while they are gone, I carry on being here.
I am, I said.
To no one there.
(Well, hello, Neil Diamond. Fancy meeting you here.)
Sometimes I want to be the one waving goodbye. I want to ride a bicycle for a thousand miles. I want to drive a car to Maine. I want to fly over the ocean and land on an island with a runway so short I have to hold my breath while we land. I want to be alone in the world, just for a moment. Or two.
Instead of being the vendor holding the cluster of helium balloons, I want to be that one balloon that slips away and floats higher and higher until it’s out of sight.
I want to be in the parade, not saving spots on the curb while everyone else buys cotton candy down the street.
And yet, that’s just part of me, the part that values independence and freedom and adventures, the “me” that yearns to be unshackled and untethered, free to roam and poke around and daydream. That part of me craves solitude and a ramble with only my thoughts for company. Sometimes, I want to grab my keys and leave without a trace. (But in a certain time-travel kind of way that would leave no one missing me.) (I was that “me” thirty years ago, come to think of it.)
The other part of me signed up for this life.
I have no regrets. Really, I don’t.
When my kids think of “home,” I want them to see my face. I want them to call me day or night to save them from catastrophe. I want to be the stability, the dependable one who remembers to buy milk and knows how to cook Thanksgiving dinner. I want to be easily found, within earshot, able to hem pants and offer advice and remember the street addresses to all the homes we’ve owned. I want to be the holder of the family photos and the keeper of the memories, the knower of the timeline of our life together.
I am the Primary and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’m here. I’ll always be here. You can count on it.